The financial crisis that began in 2008 did not pass by and the most technologically advanced type of armed forces of European countries is the air force. The changes, for the most part not always positive, have affected various sides of the Air Force. In particular, there has been a reduction in the number of aircraft fleets in service. According to Western analysts, the number of military aircraft decreased by 15 percent. Many national military procurement programs in the field aviation technicians are delayed or tend to reduce, which leads to obsolescence of aircraft in service. As a result, the average aircraft operating period over the past five-year period has increased from 22,2 to 24,4 years.
According to the analytical service of the military-technical publishing house Jaynes, the military budgets of the countries of Western Europe from 2009 to 2013 have decreased by about 8,5 per cent and have a tendency to decrease in subsequent years. While in 2009, the maximum level of defense spending in Europe was 256 billion dollars, in 2013 it fell to 234,3 billion. At the same time, the expenditures on the Air Force during this period increased slightly: from 27,5 percent in 2008 to 28,1 percent in 2013, and at the end of the current 10 anniversary they are expected to increase to 29,1 percent. This is due to the fact that the Ministries of Defense of leading European countries are reorienting their armed forces from ground-based network-centric operations to air operations. Nevertheless, although the overall allocation to the Air Force as a whole retained its level, the total loss of military budgets for this item over a five-year period (2008 – 2013) amounted to 5,5 billion dollars and in 2013 year remained at the level of 65,7 billion dollars. At the same time, the cost of purchasing a new aircraft equipment was reduced to a greater extent, falling from 2009 to 2013 year by 14,1 percent, and this year amounted to about 17,2 billion dollars. This led to the fact that the key programs of military aircraft were postponed, reduced or canceled.
Typhoon and F-35
In particular, this trend has affected the European program of the Typhoon fighter of the Eurofighter consortium, which included the purchase of 620 fighters by Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Now the volume of purchases under this program is revised to a significant reduction. In addition, negotiations are continuing between the four countries participating in the program regarding the purchase conditions for 124 Typhoon fighters in the final stage of the Tranche 3B (Tranche 3B), which are scheduled to be completed this year. Of the four countries participating in the program, plans for the purchase of this batch of aircraft remained unchanged only from Spain. The remaining three countries intend to reduce the volume of purchases. In 2008, Germany planned to acquire a total of 180 aircraft, Italy - 121, Spain - 87, United Kingdom - 232. Now, instead of 620, the aircraft of the country participating in the program will purchase only the 472 fighter, that is, approximately 25 less.
The annual production rate of "Typhoon" is gradually decreasing. If the four aircraft factories in 2011 produced the 53 fighter, then in the 2012, the 43, and in the 2013, the 35 will be assembled. The production of Typhoon fighters within the framework of the first phase of the Tranche 3А (Tranche 3A) will be delayed by approximately two years and will be completed in the 2017 year.
Along with the release of the Typhoon fighter, five European countries (Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom) are participating in the American program to create a fifth-generation, low-profile multi-purpose fighter F-35 Lightning II along with Lockheed Martin. It is clear that due to budgetary restrictions, the volume of purchases of F-35 by European countries may be revised.
In 2008, the US Department of Defense estimated F-35 sales to five European countries at the level of 450 machines. However, the situation for the F-35 in the European market has now changed, and not in the best direction for the United States.
In particular, Italy has already announced that it will be enough 90 fighter aircraft instead of the originally planned 131. The United Kingdom, the US partner in the F-35 program, has so far confirmed the purchase of only 48 short-takeoff and vertical-landing F-35B fighters to equip the carrier-based strike group (AUG). The Air Force and the British Navy, which are reducing the fleet of Tornado GR.4 aircraft, which F-35 are to replace, intend to purchase F-50 aircraft around 35, although they originally planned to order 138 machines.
Despite the fact that Norway announced its intention to increase the F-35 procurement program from 48 to 52 aircraft, the total number of American fighters for five European countries in the coming years will be reduced to 330 units, that is, one-third of the originally planned volume of purchases. Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin expects additional orders from the European region from Belgium, Portugal and Spain in the long term.
"Rafale" and "Gripen"
Along with Typhoon and F-35, companies Dassault Aviation (France) and SAAB (Sweden) are implementing on the European market, the Rafale and Gripen fighters. Initially, the Rafale program provided for the construction of 234 fighters for the Air Force and another 60 for the French Navy. However, in accordance with the recently announced plans for the development of the French Armed Forces, the total Rafale park for the Air Force and Navy has been reduced to 225 units. Since the Mirage 2000 fighters continue to be in service along with the Rafale, the experts do not rule out further reducing the final number of new fighters. In order to maintain the program and reduce costs, the annual pace of Rafale’s production is reduced to 11 units.
The Gripen program received an additional boost in December 2012, when the Swedish parliament approved the development and purchase of the Gripen-E single-seat option. The new version of the aircraft will be equipped with an on-board radar with an active phased antenna array (radar with AFAR), improved avionics, a modernized General Electric F414G engine, expanded ammunition and enlarged fuel tanks. In February, 2013-th SAAB received from the procurement department of the Swedish Ministry of Defense a contract worth 380 million dollars (2,5 billion Swedish crowns) to develop a new version of Gripen-E, and in March a contract worth 10,7 billion crowns to work on the program before 2023 of the year.
Despite this, the Gripen program will remain under the influence of financial constraints, and therefore the proposed Gripen-F double version will not be developed for the Swedish Air Force. Instead, it was decided to upgrade only 60 fighter "Gripen-C" in the version of "Gripen-E." In this regard, the number of these aircraft in the future will be reduced from the 100 aircraft currently available to 60.
Experts believe that, despite Switzerland’s intention to acquire Swedish fighters, the Gripen program will face serious financial difficulties if Switzerland does not place a firm order for at least 2014 aircraft before 20.
Fell under the reduction
From 2008 to 2013, the number of combat aircraft fleets in Western Europe declined by 15,1 per cent from 1900 to 1600 units. This reduction was due to a course taken on savings, reduced maintenance costs and satisfaction of requirements at the stage of exiting the financial crisis.
The British air force, in particular, has reduced its fleet of combat aircraft by one third - from 315 to almost 200 aircraft. This happened in connection with the adoption of a decision on the decommissioning of the Harrier GR.9 and Tornado F.3 fighters, as well as due to the delay in deliveries of the new Typhoon fighters. The decision to gradually reduce the Tornado GR.4 attack fleet by more than half by March 2015 quite obviously will further reduce the fighter fleet of the British Air Force to less than 150 units.
The recently published White Book of the French Ministry of Defense points out plans to further reduce the number of fighters in the Air Force and Navy to 225 units. The previous edition of the White Paper indicated the number of 300 units.
According to analysts "Janes", with 2008 year in France, decommissioned or withdrawn in reserve about one in five combat aircraft. Currently there is a contract for the supply of 48 fighter jets "Rafale-M" in the naval version for the French Navy instead of the previously planned 58 aircraft. The fleet of Air Force fighters will be gradually reduced to the number of aircraft in the 167 – 177, while at the present time it is 248 aircraft.
In Denmark, over the past five years, the F-16AM / BM fighter fleet has dropped by about half from 61 to 30 aircraft, while the Netherlands reduced its F-16 fleet from 105 to 87. Norway will also reduce the F-16 fleet from 57 to 48 units.
Nevertheless, the combat readiness of the fighter fleet in Europe remains at about 36 percent.
Perspectives of drone drone
Although it seems unlikely that the size of the fighter fleet will increase in the future, experts do not rule out the increasing role of the unmanned component of European combat aircraft in the future. The adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Europe is associated with two main programs currently being implemented for creating demonstrators of UCAV (Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle) UAV drums.
The participants in the European program of the Neron (Neuron) drone, headed by the French Dassault, are the Greek Hellenic Aerospace Industries (Hellenic Aerospace Industry), the Italian Alenma Aermacchi, the Spanish CACA EDA ( EADS CASA), the Swedish SAAB (SAAB) and the Swiss RUAG (RUAG). The first flight of a full-scale demonstrator of the Neron UAV took place on December 1 2012. In the UK, work is underway to create an impact drone Taranis (Taranis), which is headed by BAE Systems (BAE Systems). The first flight of this device is expected this year. Both of these programs are intended only for the evaluation of systems and technologies that can later be used as combat platforms, and are not focused on further serial production of the tested demonstrators.
The UK and France are interested in promising UCAV-type drone technology and in November 2010 signed a cooperation agreement that provides for exploring the possibility of jointly developing an unmanned aircraft platform. In 2012, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the first phase of work on the Future Combat Air System Advanced Fighting Combat Aviation System. According to the MOU, France and the United Kingdom will combine the results obtained for the UAV programs and, above all, for the Taranis and Nero programs in the initial 18 monthly work period.
Along with the reduction of fighter aircraft parks in Western Europe, the number of training aviation aircraft has significantly decreased. Since 2008, about one in five training aircraft (TCB) has been withdrawn from the Air Force, and in general, the TCB fleet has been reduced by about 300 units. The reduction of the fleet is associated with promising European plans for the transition to improved aircraft, which will prepare flight personnel for fighter aircraft. According to the US and UK governments, the cost of training one fighter pilot today is three to four million dollars.
Europe is currently looking for ways to provide uniform standardized training methods for pilots. However, the European Pilot Training Program AEJPT (Advanced European Jet Pilot Training), also called “Eurotraining”, launched in 1997, did not continue after the end of the research phase and was closed in April by the European Defense Agency EDA (European Defense Agency).
A new multinational program has been launched instead of the AEJPT program. Nine European countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden) should formulate a new plan for retrofitting a training center or a transition to a multinational program that is an alternative to the American program ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training) .
Depending on the decision made over the next five years, it is possible to further reduce the fleet of training centers for training fighter pilots in the framework of national programs, or to consolidate national training programs for flight personnel.
Military transport aviation
Probably one of the areas where European capabilities can be expanded in the medium term is strategic military transport aviation.
The British Air Force, which has eight Boeing C-17 GLOBMASTER III aircraft, is the only European air force capable of carrying out strategic military transport. The limited shipping capacity of European countries is trying to expand through two multinational programs. These include the SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) interim solution for strategic air transport, which is carried out at the expense of the An-124-100 transport aircraft attracted under a flexible charter contract, and the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability Program for Strategic Air Transport ), in which take part three C-17 aircraft.
Both programs now have substantial support in connection with the need to support NATO operations in Afghanistan.
The long-term perspectives of European military transport are to a large extent related to the A400M air transport military aircraft program.
Due to a number of problems encountered during the development phase, the A400M program was delayed for almost three years. However, the delivery of these aircraft will begin with 2013. The first production aircraft should be delivered to the French Air Force in the near future. In general, six European countries - participants of the A400M program will receive 160 airplanes of this type, which will allow to drastically increase the possibilities for the transportation of military cargo.
If you do not take into account the UK, then at present, the European possibilities for military transport are mainly provided by a comparative small fleet of C-69 Hercules C-130 tactical transport aircraft from 160, augmented by a small number of C-295 aircraft Transal "and airplanes military military" With 235 and CN 130. The maximum payload of the C-22 is about 400 tons (and significantly less for the earlier versions of this aircraft), while the payload mass of the A37М is XNUMX tons.
Coordination of regional military transport is carried out by the European Air Transport Command EATC (European Air Transport Command), formed in 2010 year to coordinate the use of existing fleets of military transport aircraft. In the future, its possibilities will be expanded by using part of the A400M parks in Belgium, France and Germany. Spain is expected to join these three countries and receive 27 A400M.
The reduction in the number of military transport aircraft in the Western European Air Force, which began with 2008, should cease over the next three years as soon as the A400M assembly line reaches its maximum production rate in 2015-monthly 2,5.
Another problem for the European Air Force is the insufficient number of tanker aircraft. For example, the US Air Force refueling aircraft almost half met the needs of French pilots who have been operating combat missions to Mali since January of this year as part of Operation Serval. According to the French Air Force Brigadier General Jean-Jacques Borel, responsible for the air force component of the operation, 10 thousand tons of fuel loaded into tanks of French combat aircraft from January 11 to May 15, 4,63 thousand tons were delivered by American tankers. Thus, the conflict in Mali revealed the inadequate security of the French Air Force in the means of refueling aircraft in the air at a distance of thousands of kilometers from the main bases. As the general recalled, the first combat sorties to bombard the positions of the Mujahideen in the north of Mali were made from the Saint-Dizier military airbase in the east of France, and therefore the four Rafale airplanes involved in the mission required five refueling operations.
At present, the modernization of the fleet of tankers as part of the FSTA (Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft) promising strategic tanker aircraft is being conducted by the UK. The new A330 “Voyager” refueling aircraft should replace the BN VC10 60-s aircraft, which will be decommissioned in September of this year, as well as Lockheed L-1011 Tristar (TriStar) aircraft manufactured by 70-x, which will be decommissioned in March 2014.
In total, the British Air Force must receive 14 A330 Voyager aircraft manufactured by Airbus Military. Nine aircraft will be operated as the main part of the fleet of tankers, and five more can be brought in as a backup if necessary. As of May of this year, four A330 have been delivered to the British Air Force, and all the ordered aircraft will remain in service until the end of 2016. However, out of 14, the ordered A330 tanker aircraft will only equip seven with three filling units — one under-body FRU (Fuselage Refilling Unit) and two underwing wings. In addition to increasing the possibility of simultaneous refueling of small aircraft, the presence of the FRU ventral unit will allow Voyager to refuel large military aircraft of the British Air Force type A400M Atlas in flight.
Although the first A330 "Voyager" entered service with the British Air Force in April 2012, this aircraft had problems with an installed air-to-air refueling system of the "hose-cone" type. Airbus Militaryi and the lead contractor consortium of Air Tanker are convinced that this problem will be resolved before the official deadline for the adoption of the aircraft in the 2014 year. The first transport aircraft tanker A330-200 with three in-flight refueling systems (the fourth in a row) was delivered to the British Air Force 30 in April of this year.
The next major European program for changing tanker aircraft could be a project to replace the KC-135R and C-135R aircraft of the French Air Force. Airbus Militaryi reported that it was close to concluding a deal on the supply of A330 MRTT (MultiRole Tanker Transport) tanker aircraft to the French Ministry of Defense. Previously, the company submitted its proposals to the French military for the supply of 12 – 14 aircraft of this type and is waiting for the signing of the contract before the end of this year.
A330 MRTT aircraft for the French Air Force will be equipped with a cargo door on the upper deck, which will allow them to be used as transport aircraft. Although this layout option has not yet been delivered to A330 MRTT customers, Airbus Military has worked out this concept during the development stage with the participation of the US Air Force in the tender program of the new aircraft KC-X. The aircraft will have a "combi" configuration, providing for the placement of the central fueling rod and underwing fueling units. According to the White Paper of the French Ministry of Defense, the total number of tankers in the country's air force is planned to be reduced to 12 units.
In 2010, Spain also confirmed its intention to purchase A330 MRTT to replace Boeing 707 refueling aircraft and A310 transport aircraft for VIP shipments. However, these plans are currently suspended due to economic difficulties, in connection with which the aircraft "Boeing 707" will remain in service in the foreseeable future.
According to experts, despite the beginning of the process of re-equipment of the fleet of tankers of Western European countries, regional opportunities for refueling in the air will remain at a low level. As of 2013 year, the European Air Force had 46 tankers, while the US Air Force had a tanker aircraft in service with the 471. The ratio of combat aircraft and tankers in Europe is 34: 1, while in the United States this figure is at the level of 5: 1.
In general, although the economic restrictions of the last years in the countries of Europe have led to a significant reduction in the air force's aircraft fleets, they initiated the process of matching the needs of the military and the possibilities of their financing. It must be assumed that in the near future a certain compromise will be found that will make it possible to optimally balance the combat capabilities of the European Air Force with the actually acceptable level of their financial support.